The mist that fell on us as we packed our horses was a bit foreboding. We dressed a little warmer, but we had no idea what was in store for the day.
No sooner had we mounted our horses when it started raining in earnest. It was hard to find our turn onto the quiet road off 460 because the map was getting wet and the road had a different name at this end than what was on our map. We finally figured it out and made a run for it across the 4 lanes with a grass median… on a corner. Yeah, that was a bit stressful. But we made it across safely. I put a leash on Bella and took her and Apache across first. From that vantage point on the other side of the road, I was able to see slightly further around the corner and motioned Richard to bring the rest of the horses across in a slight break in the traffic. I had to take a few deep breaths to calm my shaking hands after that. I keep telling myself, “We are almost there, we are almost there.” I don’t know how much more of this stressful traffic riding I can take!
As we started down Mt Tabor Rd, vets from Virginia Tech showed up. They were contacts of the vet, Cory, who we had met in Kentucky. He had called ahead to them and had them bring us supplies we needed to continue to keep Apache’s back comfortable, which by the way, is doing very well with all his stretches and anti-inflamatories!
As we continued our soggy, wet, cold ride, the weather went from bad to worse. I had to convince myself that my eyes were not deceiving me. Here it was, still in OCTOBER, and it was SLEETING! Little cold white balls were collecting on my saddle bags! Where did THIS come from?! We were caught completely by surprise! Try riding a horse with soaking wet gloves, pants, boots, sleeves- then add sleet to that. And I thought I was miserable yesterday?!?! Hah! Then I had to pee- bad. So add having to drop your pants behind a wet bush while your hands are wet and numb all while sleet is falling on your bare skin. Not fun. Not fun at all. Richard was doing his best to keep our morale up by exclaiming, “This is beautiful Irish weather!” To which I replied sourly, “My last name may be McGrath, but I am part Scottish. You can keep your lousy Irish weather.” I love my husband who deals patiently with me when I am in a bad mood.
We had the address of a girl named Lori who lived on this road. We had no idea what her place was like, but when we found her address, I knocked on the door hoping for a friendly face. She was as sweet and helpful as could be. It wasn’t long before Richard and I and Bella were all standing in her foyer warming up and drinking hot coffee while we held the horses’ lead ropes through the crack in the door! It was quite a sight I’m sure.
Lori starting making phone calls to all her neighbors trying to find a place where we could stop. We didn’t care how few miles we rode that day. We just wanted to get out of the weather. We hadn’t even received our winter gear yet and we were freezing and wet. While we were standing there in the little hall, holding ropes that belonged to horses outside, Bella curled up on the floor- Mary showed up. She had called a day ago and offered a place to stay, but it was off our route and too far away anyhow. But she informed us that God had prompted her to come check on us, and en-route to find us, she had stopped at a neighbor’s to see if he would host our horses. He had agreed and the good news was that he was only one mile down the road. She had arranged that we would unpack our stuff and turn our horses out in his pasture, and then she would take us home to sit by the fire, soak in a hot bath, and be fed a hot meal. That was music to our numb ears!
So we took our leave of Lori’s warm foyer and started marching down the road through the sleet toward the promise of warmth. Neither of us bothered getting in the saddle- they were soaked and besides, it was only a mile to walk.
We squeezed our horses into the small available spaces out of the sleet under the pretty log barns at Mike and Sharron’s place, then started unpacking with a frenzy. It wasn’t long before the gear was hung to dry (I wasn’t terribly convinced it would actually dry because it was so damp out), turned the horses out in a lush pasture complete with a shelter should they choose to get out of the weather, and Richard, Bella, and I were in Mary’s car heading for an evening next to the fire.
Once again, we were left utterly grateful for the kindness of strangers, the prompting of God who sends the right people our direction when we need them most, and a roof over our cold, wet heads. I am reminded that unlike our ‘plan’ in the beginning, this has not been a journey of two people alone, but a cross-continent community effort to help us remain safe and be successful. It is an amazing legacy that America has left on our hearts.